Become a member and get exclusive access to articles, live sessions and more!
Start Your Free Trial

Jimmy Lyons: The Box Set

JazzTimes may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. JazzTimes does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting JazzTimes.

Jimmy Lyons is one of the most intriguing musicians to emerge in the 1960s, as the alto saxophonist provided one of the strongest links between bebop and the New Thing. Unlike many of the movement’s provincially raised exponents, Lyons spent his formative years in New York, where he was able to jam with the likes of Cannonball Adderley and Elmo Hope before his historic, quarter-century association with Cecil Taylor began in 1961. Unlike some of his contemporaries, Lyons’ solos were about not just notes but phrases: short, jolting cries and serpentine, blues-drenched lines passionately and expertly strung together. There is no more direct route connecting Charlie Parker to the ’60s and its ongoing aftermath than Jimmy Lyons.

Yet this did not initially benefit Lyons, who, for a number of reasons, was slow to make his own records. After balking at an offer of a Prestige date in ’61, Lyons had to wait until 1969, and then only made the minor classic Other Afternoons (BYG/Actuel) because of the last-minute cancellation of a Taylor-led session. Gaining traction as the leader of working bands took even longer. Lyons’ units worked primarily in the New York loft scene until well into the ’70s, and it was only a few years before his death in 1986 that Lyons found a steady outlet for their music with the Black Saint label. Still, Lyons left a sufficient body of work for him to be considered a major voice in his own right, a legacy significantly enhanced by The Box Set, a five-CD collection of ensemble and solo concerts spanning the years 1972 to ’85.

Start Your Free Trial to Continue Reading

Become a JazzTimes member to explore our complete archive of interviews, profiles, columns, and reviews written by music's best journalists and critics.